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Luxury in the Box: All-In-One Shelf Systems Deliver Terrific Sound and Sleek Styling

First there was the rack system. It reared its ugly head sometime during the ’70s. Big black components, burly fake-wood cabinets and gigantic speakers the size of pylons. But hey, it looked cool-and, more importantly, you were cool for proudly displaying it in your living room.

Thank the Lord the ’70s are over. And while many of that decade’s styles are back in a retro movement, we are happy to say that rack systems (at least currently) are not part of it.

Rack systems not only looked ugly, they didn’t sound so great either; they were designed to hit an affordable price-point. Real music lovers bought component systems instead, and true audiophiles spent hours setting up and tweaking their components for maximum performance. But if you didn’t want to spend hours fussing over your system, you had to settle for the mediocre sound (and disheartening appearance) of an all-in-one rack system.

In the ’80s, audio manufacturers discovered that some people didn’t want huge rack systems, but rather were interested in a system that would better fit their décor. So most manufacturers came out with so-called “shelf systems” or “mini systems.” For the most part, these more compact systems were smaller but didn’t sound or look particularly good.

One Danish Company, Bang & Olufsen, has spent the better part of 25 years producing all-in-one systems that are as beautiful to the eyes as they are to the ears. Over the past 10 years or so, other manufacturers have followed suit to deliver a bevy of great-sounding all-in-one systems that are stylish, easy to set up and easy to use.

The Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 3000 System

B&O is considered to be the mac-daddy of the shelf-stereo system. They have relentlessly pursued the best-possible sound from the smallest-size system, and have developed a number of models that are quite impressive sounding. This particular model offers a CD player, AM/FM stereo but no cassette deck (other models do if you still have a cassette library). The speakers are available with the choice of many different color grilles to match your room. The CD player has a feature where it will remember the titles and your favorite tracks from up to 100 CDs.

But perhaps the coolest thing about the 3000 system is that its glass doors are opened and closed by steel wires driven by an electric motor via a gearbox. The motor is triggered by an infrared system that detects your approach. So just wave your hand in front of the system and presto! The doors open automatically.

The system retails for under $3,000. Bang & Olufsen products have very limited distribution and are sold only through exclusive B&O stores. For the store nearest you, you can log onto

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